Fútbol or Football? That is the Question
by Wayne Chan
I admit it – I’m an ignorant American. As hard as it is to admit, I’m afraid it’s true.
Last week, for the first time in my life, I watched an entire game, start to finish, of the World Cup. I watched the U.S. against Portugal, which ended up in a tie.
Far be it for me to make fun of fútbol. I’m well aware that it is the world’s most popular sport. Just watching the passion of the fans watching in the stadium, it’s obvious that people really do care about this game. This is a game that demands respect, which I am doing by referring to the game by the correct name of “fútbol” instead of “soccer”, which shows my deep respect for the game since it took me five minutes to figure out how to put the “ú” in fútbol.
Watching that U.S./Portugal game, there were aspects of the game I could definitely appreciate. I can see how effective ball passing and strategy are integral parts of the game. I can also see how you can invest yourself into rooting for your own country. That’s all well and good.
But coming from a U.S. sports perspective, there are a few things I just don’t get.
First of all, when a player scores a goal, the player usually turns around and runs towards his fellow teammates and they…hug? A hug? Seriously? Having watched American football, my expectations are for the player to turn around, face his teammates, while one of them rushes up and head butts him as a way of saying, “Nice job, Bill!” As far as I’m concerned, a celebration isn’t a celebration without a moderately severe traumatic head concussion.
And before the well-
As I said, I totally understand the allure of rooting for your own country in a fútbol game, but with the sports I’m accustomed to, that also means rooting against the other team. That’s half the fun!
With football, basketball, and baseball, I can root against the Dodgers, Raiders, or the Heat, and find a lot of reasons why I’m rooting against them. Maybe a Dodger player said something disparaging against someone on my team, or maybe a player my team really wanted to draft ended up going to another team in the end. Either way, that’s a perfect reason for me to hate that other team. Let me correct that, because “hate” is a harsh word and I’ve tried to teach my kids never to say that word.
So, instead I’ll say, I vehemently despise that team with every fiber of my body. See? Much better.
But with fútbol, it’s much harder. Yes, I can root on the U.S. team, but how do I root against Portugal?
Going through Wikipedia, I tried my best to find something about Portugal to root against, just the slightest bit of acrimony I could use to help bolster my fútbol cheering credentials.
Let’s see…they were a founding member of the United Nations…that’s a good thing, I guess. I once had a box of grapes go bad and I think they were imported from Portugal…probably not their fault. They have both a president and a prime minister – a little confusing but not really offensive. Hmm…
Wait a minute! Port wine comes from Portugal! I like Cabernet! That’s it! Down with Portugal!
That wasn’t easy. If the U.S. ever plays Switzerland in the World Cup, I think I’ll be in real trouble.